As a non-New Yorker who’s extracted his entire knowledge of the city from movies, I’ve always been amazed by the city’s crazy weather conditions. In winter it’s almost always nipple-freezing cold and the city is just an inch of snow away from the freaking ice age. On the other hand, in summer you can’t even think straight without gallons of sweat running down your ass-crack. It’s got to make you think of all that fluorochlorinated hydrocarbon people hair-sprayed into the atmosphere 30 years ago, messing up the ozone layer, and allegedly triggering the greenhouse effect…seems like only New York got the short end of the stick. At least this usually provides a great backdrop and a likewise great starting point for an absorbing big city tale.
1989 saw the release of Spike Lee’s landmark movie Do The Right Thing (trailer). The film is an extraordinary example of Lee’s early film work. It skillfully merges comedy and drama, raising awareness of social issues without coming off as preachy or succumbing to overt pathos. Encompassing a soon-to-be allstar cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, Rosie Perez, Danny Aiello, John Torturro, and Giancarlo Esposito, Lee’s third feature film follows a number of Brooklyn Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood residents on a sweltering summer day, dealing with their individual yet somehow all racial bias and prejudice-based problems. Apart from amazing direction and camera work, the film features an elaborately compiled and composed costume design. It does not only mirror the current fashion zeitgeist but also subtly underlines the characters unique personalities and their relationships to one another, as well as pointing towards the smoldering tragedy about to happen.
Raf Simons x Linda Farrow – Tortoiseshell Aviators
As mentioned earlier, the film’s cast features a number of soon-to-become Hollywood big names. Even the opening scene includes a familiar face and voice. Samuel L. Jackson – still far from the usual, yet known and loved for dropping f-bombs like it’s hot and pointing guns in faces while reciting biblical verses – stars as the local radio station’s smooth-tongued DJ Senor Lovedaddy, providing Lee’s film with a suave and soulful entry. Trying to attain that level of utmost laid-backness is surely fighting a losing battle. Let’s have a look at his wardrobe instead.
His flamboyant colorful style might be a bit over the top. So ditch that odd headwear and loudly patterned Hawaiian shirt in favor of his dope tortoise shell shades. The ones above, made by Raf Simons in collaboration with sunglasses specialists Linda Farrow, make for a perfect base to build that Bed Stuy outfit upon. They are available now at Up There.
Mitchell & Ness – Brooklyn Dodgers Jackie Robinson Jersey
Since Lee is known for being besides a New York Knicks, a full blown New York Yankees fan, it might at first sight seem a bit odd seeing Mookie, one of the film’s lead character played by Lee himself, sporting a Brooklyn Dodgers Jackie Robinson jersey. In fact, Lee always held Robinson in the highest esteem. He even planned on making a movie about this exceptional figure in African-American sports history.
In this particular case he equipped Mookie with Robinson’s jersey not only to honor a great athlete, but to exemplify both their underdog roles. As Robinson was the only black athlete playing for the Dodgers back then, Mookie is the only black guy in Sal’s Famous Pizza Team. This is just one of the many critical allusions Lee has hidden throughout his film. You can pick up your jersey at Mitchell and Ness.
Dope Couture – Dope 4-Finger Ring
Radio Raheem is a massive, tough, yet rather silent guy, who seems to aimlessly wander the streets of Brooklyn blasting Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” on full volume from his boombox everywhere he goes. Despite his flashy jewelry and his rather aloof and intimidating presence – which is further underlined throughout the film by low angle shots – his down-to-earth side is later revealed. Asked by Mookie about the underlying meaning of his “LOVE” and “HATE” rings, Radio Raheem launches into a passionate speech about the eternal struggle between these two emotions and love’s eventual victory over hate. Though his character appears only sporadically, it plays an important role in the film’s eventual tragic developments.
As hip-hop is now considered the pinnacle of mainstream pop music and its leading artists are among the best selling and earning artists, the choice of commodities shown off have now reached a ridiculously obscene level. Flashing big-ass gold rings almost seems like a humble gesture compared to all the Maybachs, private jets, yachts, and the multi-million dollar business empire contemporary rap artists have built around their persona. However, shiny bling is still an essential staple, no doubt about that. As a matter of fact Atlanta rapper 2Chainz, known for his infatuation with jewelry, was arrested last year at New York’s La Guardia Airport after officials mistook a four-finger ring found in his luggage for brass knuckles. You can pick one of these up at Dope Couture‘s online store.
Limoland – Multi LL Swim Shorts
The skillfull and cautious choice of color is an important cornerstone of Lee’s cinematic aesthetic He is actually quoted as saying, “the look of the film should be bright…almost blinding AFROCENTRIC bright!” in the fim’s production journal. In fact, to further illustrate the sizzling hot summer day the story is set upon, he ordered the buildings’ facades to be painted in red and orange tones. The actors costumes have of course undergone the same careful treatment. Skimpy shorts, low cut tanktops, hues of red, orange, yellow, purple and pink, more than often seen on one single piece of garment are contrasted against more reserved outfits and color palettes distinguishing the older characters from the young.
The above shorts by Limoland are just the right choice if you want to live up to that late eighties sweltering hot summer day and give your wardrobe a distinct retro spin. Get them directly at the Limoland web shop.
American Apparel – Stripe Calf-High Socks
Hidden in shoes and under pant legs, socks are an integral yet more than often carelessly neglected outfit building block (Do I even have to stress that further?). I have to admit, when paired with shorts I tend to ditch the socks for a less awkward, more laid back boat-shoe kinda look. However, if you are up for that fresh 1989 Bed Stuy style, it’s definitely do or die.
Jordan Brand – Air Jordan Spizike
One of my favourite scenes in the entire movie includes Buggin’ Out (played by Giancarlo Esposito, who would later become famous as Gustavo Gus’ Fring in Breaking Bad) launching into a rant, assembling his group of homies around himself and trying to act all tough, after a white and rather WASPish looking guy wearing a green Larry Bird Celtics shirt accidently steps on his brand new pair of Air Jordans, echoing the rivalry between the two NBA players. It gets even funnier after Buggin’ Out goes nuts and bolts about gentrification, urging the white guy to go back to Massachusets, at which he exclaims in utter disbelief that he was actually born in Brooklyn.
Although known for being a die-hard New York Knicks fan, Lee contributed very much to Michael Jordan’s popularity through his Mars Blackmon character, who appeared not just in his films, but in a number of Nike Michael Jordan TV commercials in the early nineties as well. This later led to the inception of the Spiz’ike sneaker that blends several different Jordan silhouettes, commemorating the historic relationship between the athlete and the filmmaker. You can pick up a rerelease now at Overkill.